Teaching Profession

College Requirement for Substitutes Tabled in Louisiana

By Erik W. Robelen — October 03, 2001 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

It seemed like a modest, common-sense proposal: requiring long-term substitute teachers in Louisiana to have the same educational level as the people they replace, that is, a college degree. But some Louisiana superintendents, saying the initiative substitutes unrealistic nonsense for common sense, rebelled.

Now the plan faces an uphill struggle. Last month, the state board of elementary and secondary education voted 8-2 to table the plan to impose new state requirements for substitute teachers, including a mandate that any substitute who teaches in the same classroom for more than 20 days must have a college degree.

Some viewed that vote as effectively the death knell for the proposal. But Paul G. Pastorek, the board president, vowed that he would seek to revisit the matter, possibly as soon as the next board meeting this month.

Noting that the state requires 4th and 8th graders to pass state tests before progressing to the next grade, he said: “I felt that it was unfair to the children to have substitute teachers in the classrooms who weren’t really qualified to teach the material.”

Some district superintendents say that while they support the concept, they oppose the proposal.

“What superintendent could be against having the best-qualified sub?” said Lloyd Lindsey, the superintendent of the 2,500-student West Feliciana public schools. But he said the reality in Louisiana is that finding substitutes with bachelor’s degrees is not always easy, especially in poor rural areas.

And the matter is overshadowed by a much larger problem, Mr. Lindsey argued.

“We have some districts in Louisiana that can’t even get certified teachers,” he said. “Why are we worried about subs?”

“It’s another unfunded mandate,” said Jude W. Theriot, the superintendent of the 31,000-student Calcasieu schools. He noted that no money was attached to the proposed requirements.

Louisiana is one of many states that permit individuals without a college degree to substitute teach.

“The majority of states only require a high school diploma,” said Geoffrey G. Smith, the director of the Substitute Teaching Institute at Utah State University.

A national survey conducted by the institute in 1999 found that 21 states required a bachelor’s degree for substitute teaching, though a few of those states made exceptions, for example, for so-called emergency substitutes.

Middle Ground?

Mr. Smith said that educational background is not necessarily a recipe for good substitute teaching. “There are a lot of individuals with a wealth of experience in life” who lack a bachelor’s degree, he said. “Even someone with a Ph.D. is not [necessarily] equipped to go into a classroom.” The key, he argued, is effective training for substitute teachers.

Beyond the academic requirement for long-term substitutes, the Louisiana proposal has two other provisions. First, all substitutes who teach for a day or more would be required to have a high school diploma and undergo at least four hours of training. And second, all substitutes would have to undergo criminal-background checks.

Leslie Jacobs, a state board member who originally supported the proposal, said that after hearing the complaints from superintendents that the proposal was unrealistic and unfair, “I cried ‘uncle.’” She abstained when the board ultimately voted to table the matter.

Ms. Jacobs suggested, however, that there might be some middle ground.

“I think people are trying to work on a compromise,” she said. “I’m not clear exactly where it’s going. ... I don’t believe there are the votes [today] to pass” the bachelor’s-degree requirement.

Mr. Lindsey, the superintendent of the West Feliciana schools, expressed concern that the requirement might lead to a “numbers game,” in which districts would move a substitute teacher out after 19 days to avoid the requirement.

He and others also emphasized that pay for substitutes is a big problem. The pay varies widely in Louisiana, depending on the educational background of the individual, but in some cases it is less than $40 per day.

But Mr. Pastorek isn’t ready to give up. He says his goal is to get the proposal passed this school year.

“I think it’s not the last we’ll see of this issue,” he said. “I’m going to continue to push on it.”

Events

School Climate & Safety K-12 Essentials Forum Strengthen Students’ Connections to School
Join this free event to learn how schools are creating the space for students to form strong bonds with each other and trusted adults.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
Future-Proofing Your School's Tech Ecosystem: Strategies for Asset Tracking, Sustainability, and Budget Optimization
Gain actionable insights into effective asset management, budget optimization, and sustainable IT practices.
Content provided by Follett Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Should Class Feel Like Entertainment? Teachers Have Mixed Feelings
Teachers on social media give their opinions on whether entertaining is a necessary part of their job.
4 min read
An eighth-grade math teacher demonstrates a lesson called “math golf.”
An eighth-grade math teacher demonstrates a lesson called “math golf.”
Allison Shelley for All4Ed
Teaching Profession Teachers’ Careers Go Through Phases. They Need Support in Each
Teachers experience a dip in job satisfaction a few years into their careers.
5 min read
Vector illustration of a female teacher at her desk with her head in her hands. There are papers, stacked notebooks, and a pen on the desk and a very light photo of a blurred school hallway with bustling students walking by in the background.
iStock/Getty
Teaching Profession Download Downloadable: 5 Ways Principals Can Help With Teacher Burnout
This downloadable gives school leaders and teachers various ways to spot and treat teacher burnout.
1 min read
Silhouette of a woman with an icon of battery with low charge and icons such as a scribble line, dollar sign and lightning bolt floating around the blue background.
Canva
Teaching Profession Massages, Mammograms, and Dental Care: How One School Saves Teachers' Time
This Atlanta school offers unique onsite benefits to teachers to help them reduce stress.
3 min read
Employees learn more about health and wellness options during a mini benefits fair put on by The Lovett School in Atlanta on May 8, 2024.
Employees at the Lovett School in Atlanta meet with health benefits representatives during a mini benefits fair on May 8, 2024.
Erin Sintos for Education Week